Thursday, December 29, 2011

Witness to passion and hope

In the days leading up to Christmas break from school, a former student came to visit and speak with my classes about her experiences studying and doing service in El Salvador.  Claire is a junior at Boston College, and participated in an alternative study-abroad program run through Santa Clara University in CA.  Santa Clara sponsors a program based in San Salvador, which enables students from Jesuit (and some non-Jesuit) schools throughout the US study at the University of Central America in addition to serving at various praxis sights throughout the country.  It is based upon the principles of liberation theology and solidarity, enabling students from North America to walk with the people of El Salvador and learn from them. 
Listening to Claire's stories and watching the passion and fire in her heart as she described who she met and all that she learned, I found myself deeply moved.  There is something about working alongside the poorest of the poor that puts things in perspective a bit, pointing out what really matters: relationship, love, compassion and laughter... and points out the insanity that we often get caught up in, particularly in the Christmas season: money, competition, power and status.  It is easy to lose sight of what 'really matters' living in a culture that often emphasizes 'stuff' over 'people'.  But there are moments of grace, insights into the beauty of love and relationship, that ground me back in the realization of what brings true, deep and long-lasting fulfillment. 
I was wasting some time yesterday on Facebook and saw a picture of another former student who goes to Saint Joe's, and she was participating in 'Unity Week', what used to be called 'Rainbow Week'... a week of events that emphasize understanding and acceptance of all people, focused primarily on sexual orientation.  It made me smile, excited to imagine what this young woman and so many others will do to help bring change and compassion to our world.  It just so happened that I spent the afternoon yesterday having coffee with Claire, and this other young woman happened to be at the same coffee house meeting with another former teacher from our high school...  Truly, what are the chances?  God's hand, providing inspiration and hope! 
It's easy to get disillusioned with the 'Church' or the world in general, to focus on what isn't or what should/could be.  But it is truly inspiring and gives me great hope to see these two young women, in a sea of thousands (or millions!) of passionate, inspired and motivated young people, ready to set the world on fire!
I received this poem from a friend this Christmas, and find its message to be truly profound and challenging.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas :)

"When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…
And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.  -- Howard Thurman

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